Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 31

Thread: The Metamorphosis by Kafka

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    8,564

    The Metamorphosis by Kafka

    When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.
    . . . Thus begins The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (not Ovid, though truly a great epic). For anyone who has not read this, but intends to, I recommend you not to read this thread, as I hope to discuss some of the short novel's contents. For anyone who has read it, do you have any thoughts as to the origin, symbolism, theme, and undertones of it?
    Reading of some of Kafka's life, I realized that the main characters' manners reflect much of Kafka and his family's lifestyle. He lived a short life of much seclusion, never marrying (but getting engaged twice), and ruled much by his over-bearing father, getting over-worked and supporting his family.
    A reader may easily realize the main character's full name, Gregor Samsa, and, wanting to do a bit of research, I found that Samsa seemed connived name by Kafka, originating from the Czech phonetics of sám ('alone') and jsem ('I am'), literally meaning 'I am alone.'
    Gregor's sudden metamorphosis caught me at a random surprise, and did not strike me as the science-fiction and fantasy I tend to avoid by bias, and controversy exists of what kind of 'vermin' he turned into - but something, surely, with antennae, segments, small legs, and can crawl on walls and ceilings; most think of a dung beetle, others some kind of louse.
    The significance of Gregor's name and his sister's name, Grete, who mostly cares for him, I find very important. Gregor's father, a retired militaryman of some type, influenced much by Kafka's own father, detests Gregor's transformation, and fights every chance he can attempt. His mother, in my opinion, remains mostly indifferent, and, as all eventually do, ignore the obvious problem in the home, 'the elephant in the room,' so to speak.
    As something so drastically deviant, Gregor seems much more of a liability on the family as time passes, much like an infant, but because of appearing a different species (though he understands their speech, but cannot speak), Gregor eventually gets entirely rejected, and dies as his 'vermin' self.
    The end somewhat perplexed me, feeling that I somehow missed something essential in the plot. I would like to think that the theme revolved much around the consequences of sudden deviance, as if Gregor felt so emotionally distraught from his history, explained only vaguely in the short novel, possibly indicated slightly by his 'unsettling dreams,' in a rather Freudian manner, his cognition, conformed personality to his family, and behavior, like in Ovid's Metamorphoses, reflected to his physical appearance, only exacerbating his already-felt emotions.
    From a standpoint, I visualized this story as a very emotional and symbolic tale, saturated with metaphors and similes that I cannot ignore.
    Does anyone else have any thoughts? I would love to discuss this further.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    7

    gregor samsa

    hey, maybe this could be interesting for you too:

    samsa
    kafka

    the a's are at the same place, we have two s and two k's. because of this he wrote alone-i am and not i am alone.

  3. #3
    Registered User Woland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    151
    Ive never been able to read The Metamorphosis all the way through - strikes too close to home. However, I've heard Kafka used to share his stories with friends and they would all have a good laugh.
    "Well, God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents."

    - Feste, Twelfth Night


    "...till human voices wake us and we drown."

    - Eliot

  4. #4
    Mad Hatter Mark F.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Paris
    Posts
    675
    Quote Originally Posted by mono
    From a standpoint, I visualized this story as a very emotional and symbolic tale, saturated with metaphors and similes that I cannot ignore.
    Does anyone else have any thoughts? I would love to discuss this further.
    I read the novel a while ago and from what I remember, the way I interpreted Gregor's transformation was as a punishment. He turns into this lowly creature because as a human he acted like he wasn't worth more than that. He bowed down to his supperiors and to his father and never revolted like (maybe) he should have. He dies because even becoming whatever he becomes doesn't make him react, he just accepts his fate.
    "And the worms, they will climb
    The rugged ladder of your spine"

  5. #5
    Ataraxia bazarov's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    In spleen
    Posts
    2,219
    I've read it couple of years ago, and I think Gregor became a monstrous vermin beacuse Kafka wanted to present society and peoples in those days. What do you do with a monstrous vermin??? You crash it!!! (Sorry, animal lovers ).
    People were thinking only on their work, not at least about them selves. When Gregor woke up and saw his shell, he didn't think: O my God, what I'm gonna do now??? No, his thought was: How I'm gonna go to work??? His family also reacted in same way: He is uselles, we don't need him any more!!! So they stop feeding him and when he died, they just cleaned up his room and move on with their lives. It's not normal, you must admit. But Kafka gives (us) a hope; near to his end, Gregor strated to think about himself, his humanity,etc...Really, it's a masterpiece.
    At thunder and tempest, At the world's coldheartedness,
    During times of heavy loss And when you're sad
    The greatest art on earth Is to seem uncomplicatedly gay.

    To get things clear, they have to firstly be very unclear. But if you get them too quickly, you probably got them wrong.
    If you need me urgent, send me a PM

  6. #6
    Fragmented Personalities Kafka's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Dunkelheit
    Posts
    43
    ^^ That is very well said! I agree with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Buddenbrooks
    hey, maybe this could be interesting for you too:

    samsa
    kafka

    the a's are at the same place, we have two s and two k's. because of this he wrote alone-i am and not i am alone.
    Buddenbrooks, I don't understand how the last bit about alone-i am and not i am alone works out.
    Jede hat ihren privateingang zum Himmel! - Franz Kafka

  7. #7
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The USA... or thereabouts
    Posts
    6,076
    Blog Entries
    78
    Kafka has long been one of my favorite writers. I think he is someone that is difficult to appreciate at first because the image of him is quite different that what he actually is. The term "Kafkaesque" often suggests something darkly surreal... and while there is an element of this in Kafka's work, he is certainly quite removed from the late Romantic/Gothic moodiness of Poe, Baudelaire, Gautier, etc... Kafka is very much the anti-Romantic. His language is stripped down... matter-of-fact... beaureaucratic dead-pan. He is surely a prime example of what J.L. Borges refers to as the final stages of art where art becomes "baroque"... engaged in self-referentiality... ironic. I have read the anecdote about Kafka reading to his friends as well. He was said to have been unable to read his works without continually laughing. This dark, dead-pan humor is something I appreciate most about him... His absurdist humor is far closer to J.L. Borges... Tomasso Landolfi... even the film, "Dr. Strangelove" than it is to the surrealism suggested by Dali, Breton, Max Ernst, or others.

    I remember reading The Metamorphosis back in college. It didn't do much for me then, and I was somewhat put off by all the symbolic interpretations: The Metamorphosis as Freudian allegory, The Metamorphosis as an expression of modern man lost in an increasingly beaureaucratic world, The Metamorphosis as Marxist allegory, etc... Of course I appreciate the concept that a great work of art can speak on multiple levels, yet at the same time, as an artist myself (albeit a visual artist) I have always been rather cautious of (even disdainful) of the notion that one can reduce a work of art to a mere illustration of this or that social/political thereom.

    Having said that much, I will go on to state that one of the most interesting interpretations of Kafka I have come across was by the poet/translator, Stephen Mitchell. In Mitchell's translation of the biblical book of Job, Mitchell notes the similarities with Kafka: the manner in which the individual is suddenly and absurdly abused by the gods/the powers above him without any reason... the manner in which his friends/family abandon him. This analogy is even more pronounced in The Trial and other stories. “Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” Thus begins the trial... but one can easily imagine "Joseph K." being replaced by "Job". And what could be more absurdist than Jahweh turning to the tempter and saying, "see what you have made me do", after authorizing him to do whatever he will to his faithful servent... merely to prove a point. From reading Kafka's journals I have no doubt that the Bible (especially the Hebrew Bible) as well as Jewish/Yiddish tales and theater, with their long tradition of an absurdist dead-pan humor, were of great interest to the author.

    By the way... for anyone interested in Kafka (among other Modernist authors) this site may be of great interest:

    http://www.themodernword.com/kafka/kafka_biography.html
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
    My Blog: Of Delicious Recoil
    http://stlukesguild.tumblr.com/

  8. #8
    semper eadem
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    in Halle/Saale, Germany
    Posts
    83
    I read Kafka a lot when I was at school, it was considered to be something really subversive and defeatist. So we read it privately but were not allowed to discuss it in school since our teachers didn't deem it to be ideologically correct behaviour for the young commie elite. Anyways, we always thought that Samsa turns into a giant dung beetle and dies because an apple has infested his body. (He cannot move and cannot get the apple out). This we found extremly shocking and hilarious at the same time (just like "Die Strafkolonie" (is it "the penitentiary" in English?) where the prisoner is stripped unto/into a machine which takes, strip by strip, his skin off? All of Kafka's work (famously "The Castle" (Das Schloss) and "Der Prozess") show someone lonely, unable to move or to get out of his situation, especially in Der Prozess it becames clear that the bureaucratic cage/machine of K.u.K. (kaiserlich und königlich / i.e. king and emperor) society is too much, is overwhelming. There is individuality, but it doesnt have a chance. However, the machine/cage/castle cannot be reduced to Habsburg Empire bureaucracy alone. The entire society, even the relation between different parts of the empire (Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary etc.) were subject to rigid rules, society had come to an end, it had ceased to exists as a system of human relationships and had deteriorated into a system of relationships of roles defined by rank, position, profession, ethnic origin. German-language pre-first world war literature is much like this. They all thought society has gone week, lost its purpose, run empty (even people like Thomas Mann thought the war to be a brilliant idea to inject new life into Europe's bloodless bones). What sticks out about Kafka is that there is a clear surrealist tendency, not only in Metamorphosis. His psychological landscapes look like Derrida's paintings. However, in Kafka I cannot see that much evidence of Freudian ideas, they are much more apparent in Robert Musil "Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften" (Man without Qualities/Features ???). Although the latter is a very long novel (4 huge volumes) it provides a good background to the society and the general mindset Kafka had to endure.
    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

  9. #9

    Unhappy

    i read this novella last week . i was touched by its surreal humor.
    i think the transformation that happened to gregor was not shocking to him but it was shocking to his family and to his society.that transformation done at one level by that merciless society had already existed at an earlier stage in gregor`s life. it was not sth new to him. here comes A/R ( appearance /reality ) technique so to say. when this technique was reversed and when the mask fell from this dehumanized humanity represented by gregor , many things happened: inability to deal with the situation , fear , indifference, .... failure to save this vermin-self

  10. #10
    Gregor reminds me of myself to some extent. I belong to the middle east ( please, those who belong to the middle east as well , do not feel angry with what I am about to say.) in the arab world , neither women nor men own their bodies . we can not do what we like with our bodies. To a great extent our bodies are owned by our families and by our society –i.e. we are dehumanized .
    Similarly , gregor`s life was not his own. He had to work for the sake of his family , not for his own……..
    to own this ownership ( one's body and one's life ) needs a lot of work : revolting against many social customs , questioning one's beliefs …, achieving self-independence, confidence,………..
    not to own this ownership is estrangement –i.e. u become an outsider from your body and from what u want to be." This matter-of-fact assertion" is mixed with the surreal bizarre incidents and imagery of this novella.



    " I am separated from all things by a hollow space , and I do not even reach to its boundaries ." Kafka.

  11. #11
    semper eadem
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    in Halle/Saale, Germany
    Posts
    83
    Hey Lily, what you've written is so sad. In some way (only in a very limited one of course) I can feel what you mean. Living in a commie country (at the time I read Kafka and the like) we had the feeling that our minds didnt really belong to us. Many people had scissors in their head that cut off any thought they wouldnt consider as allowed to be thought. That's perhaps why we (we is only a very small group of people) liked this sort of literature so much, it was something new to us that you were allowed to think defeatist thoughts. And this is subversive in a society were everything is bright, cheerful and progressive by definition. To change this kind of estrangement and oppression of individuality is not easy. No one who hasn't lived under such conditions (and has been raised in them since childhood) cannot ever know how difficult it really is. Although the GDR wasnt nearly such a harshly reacting country like the middle east seems to be, many (me too) had to pay dearly for going open. We were lucky though because we had niches in society where you could be critical or different. I dont know if such exist where you are. The biggest problem wasnt really the secret service (not in my experience anyway) but it was all the normal people (your fellow pupils, your work colleagues, even other dissidents who had sometimes their own agenda) who had adopted the approach of this bent society and who made you into an outcast when you didnt conform. While you can face a secret service guy or some official as your enemy, with your colleagues, your family, your colleagues you cannot. So keep on reading Kafka or whatever you read, it helps you not to submit and perhaps one day, you can teach your children something of this different view you have. That's why you have to keep on fighting and thinking your own thoughts. That's what my mum and my grandfather did with me (they made me into a political person) so that I could do my little bit on the big change we finally achieved. Your children or your childrens children will be able to do this too if you hold on to your inner freedom in order to convey it to them. (I didn't write much about Kafka now, hope you forgive me).
    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

  12. #12

    Thumbs up

    Hail Torwench , when reading your response to me , many stormy feelings welled up inside my breast. I do not want the members of this lovely forum to cry because of what we said .
    As I said earlier and back to our topic,
    (This matter-of-fact assertion" is mixed with the surreal bizarre incidents and imagery of this novella. )
    it seems whether I like it or not , I am 'gregor' to some extent .yet, I think I have the right to own my body . fortunately , some change starts to emerge in the mentality of the young generation ( but not in every single individual) . unfortunately , some foreign intruders do not approve our change, but rather they want to impose their stupid rules on us . let me tell you sth guys , this change/ metamorphosis will happen to the arab body without their intrusion . through you guys, I say to the whole world : leave us in peace . it is time to own this arab body of ours .
    by the way , I did not divert from kafka`s novella by what I said . I trust your intelligence ,guys, to find how relevant my symbols to kafka`s.





    " I have the true feeling of myself only when I am unbearably unhappy." Kafka

  13. #13
    semper eadem
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    in Halle/Saale, Germany
    Posts
    83
    Hey Lily, you are quite angry (at least a bit) thus you cannot be Samsa who is resigned, not angry. Although I personally have always held that anger is much better than resignation there may be times where a person should control his/her anger. Remember what happened to Samsa after he became a beetle, everyone ignored him, they stopped seeing him as what he still was inside - a sentient being with emotions and thoughts. In the end, he died in despair, infested, poisened to death by an apple. (the apple from the tree of knowledge?)
    What remains of the other part of the discussion is, I think, the following. You are quite right in the sense that if change should come it must come from yourselves. No one can import change successfully if people are not prepared to change. An outsider can always help if enough people are willing, if they are not, outside help is not help but coercion and must, in the long run, fail. However, you should also consider what change you want. Certainly not the change into a dung beetle. Not any change is a desirable one. If you do nothing, if you cannot break out of your own inactivity, then you are Samsa. But if you attempt to bring change about you must consider your direction. Germans know this very well. You can change, almost over night, into a killing machine. Now, you don't want that because once you stop, and you have to stop (either because someone else stops you or, if not, you run out of potential victims eventually) there will be nothing left of yourself. You always require the other to be yourself, if no others are left, you are nothing. You could, however, change into a Saladin-like society. Saladin the Great One, who was merciful to his enemies, generous to all his people, whatever their creed, deeply honourable and humane in all his conduct, loved even by the European Crusaders. This is what Arabia means to me, the preserver of Aristotle, and of all the philosophic and scientific literature Europe now calls its own, the builders of fountains, the beacon of tolerance and religious freedom when Europe struggled in darkest prejudice. Do you feel like claiming this back or is it something you have given up on? Tell me, I really would like to know.
    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

  14. #14

    Lightbulb

    Hey torwench ,
    I said I am samsa to some extent. All I want is to own , feel my body and control my life. I want to be who I want to be , not what others ( family , society , intruders) want me to be. I am suffering yet I will not resign. i thought that u understood what I have been talking about so far but unfortunately u do not understand me . we women of the middle east can not own our bodies unless men of the middle east free themselves from the severe pressure they are facing nowadays –that is occupation in the first place ( then there are many other things to be dealt with ) . How do u think men of the middle east will help themselves and will help their women to change if we and they are still under occupation???????
    After all this interesting discussion , U think we are turning into a killing machine !!!!
    By the way , I do not blame u at all. I will tell u why. Our media is weak because some arab leaders do not form unity . I do not know whether u are listening to the OTHER side – in my case , it is the middle east . please , go to the arab street to see the truth.
    After our earlier discussion, u think I am denying the OTHER . alas!!!!!

    It seems that u did not understand what I said previously concerning the similarity between my symbols and kafka`s . gregor samsa and his family faced many pressures, one of which is the lodgers( in my case it is the intruders ) . we will not become outsiders in our own lands I assure you. Are we denying the OTHER by defending our body .

    U have to pay attention to sth guys, What I have been talking about so far applies to two levels of ownership . these two apply as well to kafka`s novella.




    Gather your roses while you may, for time is still flying. But know the roses that bloom today, tomorrow may be dieing.

  15. #15
    semper eadem
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    in Halle/Saale, Germany
    Posts
    83
    Oh Lily, unfortunately you misunderstood me a bit. I didn't say that you turned into a killing machine (I don't even know in what part of the Middle East you live). I meant that we (ie. the Germans) turned into a killing machine and later turned almost entire Europe into one giant penitentiary. In 1933, 1939 respectively. Going back to Kafka and my earlier post on the situation in Habsburg Austria and Germany before the First World War, you can always say as well that Europe, and our countries especially, needed change. We had already turned into dung beetles. But we metamorphosed from dung beetles into something that meant that Europe's young men killed each other on the battle fields between 1914 and 1918. Four of my grandfather's brothers died in the Second world war, the youngest was only 18. My great-grandfather spent 6 years in a concentration camp. My father was in prison during the Stalin-era for having a pen pal in the United States. I have been persecuted between 1983 and 1989 when thankfully the wall came down. In 1983, I was only 18 myself. My family and I know what pressure is and harassment, we know of death and hatred too. And because I know this, (obviously much less than you do because at least in my own case, all was relatively civilised and my life was never in danger) I have never allowed myself to hate the other side. I even love the Russians a lot. Of course it is easy to say this when everything is over, as it is here. My husband's family is from Northern Ireland, they also know what bombs are and sudden attacks. What stopped the terrorism in Ireland was not only the government, it was the people who had enough. It was the mothers who said we haven't raised our sons to become, and die as, members of one faction or the other. It is not all well now but it has become so much better. The mothers on both sides of the divide said this and stood as one. They were able to do this because they realised that they had something in common: their fears, their pain, the graves and the wish to live an ordinary peaceful life. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes it may be better not to strike back. And don't forget, the world is watching and the world is not as biased as some would like to make you think.
    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Das Urteil (or The Judgement) by Franz Kafka
    By Kafka in forum Kafka, Franz
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 08-24-2009, 07:53 PM
  2. HELP PLZ...The Metamorphosis
    By Enchanted in forum General Literature
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 11-19-2005, 12:24 AM
  3. I need Help Again
    By Maljackson in forum General Writing
    Replies: 16
    Last Post: 02-21-2005, 02:04 PM
  4. Italo Calvino and Kafka's Metamorphosis
    By Munro in forum General Literature
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 09-08-2003, 06:39 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •